When your air conditioner starts spewing unusual or unappealing smells, it is important to take notice because it could be a sign of a significant problem. Ignoring unpleasant smells coming from your air conditioning could lead to serious damage to your air conditioning or even pose a risk to your health and safety.

Depending on the smell, the culprit could be bacteria or fungus in the system. In other cases, it could also sign something mechanically wrong with the AC. Some smells are a warning of an unsafe problem, including a natural gas leak.

At Van Haaften Plumbing & Heating, we are experienced at getting to the root cause of stinky smells. If you smell something peculiar coming from your AC, chances are our team of skilled pros has smelled it, too—and fixed it! We’ve earned our reputation as the premier company for air conditioning repair in Pella.

What does a certain smell coming coming from your air conditioning mean? Here are some typical air conditioner smells and what they might mean:

Your AC Smells Like Feet

If your air conditioner smells like feet, it can be because of a buildup of bacteria or fungus inside of it. When moisture accumulates inside the unit, it can establish an environment that is favorable to the spread of bacteria and fungus. This can cause a foul odor that is often described as smelling like dirty feet.

Another likely explanation for the smell may be a dirty air filter. When your HVAC system's air filter becomes clogged with dirt, dust and other contaminants, it can result in substandard air quality and a musty smell that bears a resemblance to feet.

To solve this unpleasant situation, it's important to have a professional inspect and clean your air conditioning system, including the evaporator coil, drain pan and condensate drain line. It's also important to change the air filter regularly to promote good air quality and restrict the development of bacteria and fungus.

The Air Conditioning Smells Like Rotten Eggs

If your smells like rotten eggs, it may be the result of a natural gas leak in the unit or in the surrounding area. Natural gas has a distinct odor, often described as smelling like rotten eggs or sulfur, which is because of a substance added to it to make it easily detectable.

A natural gas leak is extremely dangerous and requires immediate attention. If you suspect a gas leak, turn off your air conditioning system, immediately open windows and doors to ventilate the area, get everyone out of the building and call your gas company or emergency services right away.

My Air Conditioner Smells Like Mildew

If your cooling system is giving off an odor like mildew, it could be due to a accumulation of moisture inside the unit. When moisture collects inside an air conditioner, it can promote the growth of mold and mildew. This can cause a musty stench that it similar to mildew.

Another possible cause of the smell may be a clogged air filter. Once the air filter becomes clogged, it can result in poor air quality and a musty smell that resembles mildew.

Regular air conditioning maintenance from Van Haaften Plumbing & Heating can help prevent both of these problems, because a good cleaning, inspection and filter change is a great way to keep your system running at its best!

My Air Conditioner Smells Like Urine

One of the most unpleasant scenarios is when an air conditioner smells like urine.

If your air conditioner stinks like urine, it could be traced back to a number of things. One likely cause is a accumulation of bacteria or mold in the your HVAC. This can happen when moisture accumulates in the system and creates a moist environment that favorable for bacterial growth. The bacteria can create a foul odor that resembles urine.

Another feasible cause of the stink could be a clogged drain line. The condensation that forms inside the air conditioning unit needs to drain away properly, but if the drain line becomes stopped up by debris, it can cause water to back up and build up inside the unit. This can produce a musty smell that resembles urine.

Your AC Smells Like Burning Plastic

If your air conditioning unit smells like burning plastic, this could indicate an electrical concern with the unit. After some time, the electrical parts in the air conditioning system can wear out or bust, which can create a burning smell that resembles plastic.

Another possible root cause of the smell could be a foreign object lodged in the unit. If something foreign gets caught in the air conditioning system, it can become hot and cause a smell like burning plastic.

If you notice something that smells like burning plastic coming from your cooling system, it’s essential to contact a professional right away.

My Air Conditioner Smells Like Gas

If your air conditioner smells like gas, it could be because of a natural gas leak in the unit or in the surrounding area. Natural gas has a distinctive smell, often described as smelling of rotten eggs or sulfur. That’s because a smell is incorporated into natural gas to make sure that it is easily detectable.

As stated before, a natural gas leak can be VERY dangerous and requires immediate attention. Should you suspect a gas leak, turn off your air conditioning system, open windows and doors to air out the home, get everyone out of the building and phone your gas company or emergency services right away.

The Air Conditioning Smells Like Fish

Should your air conditioner smell like fish, this could be a sign of a build-up of bacteria or mold in the unit. Moisture produces an environment that fosters the growth of bacteria and mold. This can cause a foul odor that can be described as smelling like fish or, as mentioned earlier, it also can result in a smell like dirty feet.

Another possible cause of the smell could be a dead animal or other biological material stuck in the air conditioning system. This often can take place if an animal such as a mouse or bird becomes trapped inside the unit and dies.

To correct the issue, it's worthwhile to have a professional check out and clean your air conditioning system. They can identify the source of the smell and take the proper steps to remove any contaminants and keep the problem from recurring.

Why My Air Conditioner Smells Like Vinegar

There could be multiple reasons a home's air conditioning system smells like vinegar. One possible cause might be a plugged air filter. Another possible cause of the smell could be a refrigerant leak. If the refrigerant leaks, it can create a chemical odor that resembles vinegar.

To fix the issue, it's beneficial to have a skilled specialist examine and clean your air conditioning.  If the odor lingers after the cleaning and exchanging the air filter, it's best to reach back out to a professional to identify and repair any persistent issues with your air conditioning. Or, they can tell you if your air conditioning should be replaced.

If you are wanting to upgrade, Van Haaften Plumbing & Heating can help locate the right unit to fit your home’s needs. We deliver trustworthy, skilled air conditioner installation in Pella.

Your AC Smells Like Chemicals

If the smell of chemicals is coming out of your air conditioning equipment, it could be the result of a refrigerant leak. In a situation where the refrigerant leaks, it can create a chemical aroma that is often described as smelling like chemicals or paint thinner, vinegar or acetone.

Another possible reason for the smell could be something wrong with the electrical wiring or parts inside the air conditioning system. This can result in a burning smell that is like chemicals or burning plastic.

If you believe there is a refrigerant leak or an electrical concern, it's important to turn off your air conditioning system right away and contact a professional to inspect and repair the unit. Refrigerant leaks can be harmful and may require immediate attention to protect against injury or damage to your home.

Weird Smells Coming from Your Cooling? Contact the Experts at Van Haaften Plumbing & Heating

If your air conditioner stinks and you aren’t able to fix it smoothly on your own, call the cooling experts at Van Haaften Plumbing & Heating. We have plenty of experience working with a wide variety of air conditioning systems. Our crew has fixed a multitude of air conditioning troubles through the years—including strange smells. Call us today for quality AC repair in Pella!